Sunday, July 13, 2014


Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo

Location: 166 South Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo, New York, USA

Opened: 1969

Closed: 1973, but became a gay male bar before that

This description of Crescendo is from a longer list of places identified at Buffalo Gay Bar Stories. None of the other bars discussed were dedicated lesbian spaces, though some were more tolerant of women than others.

What is interesting about Crescendo is that it started out as a lesbian bar and then was very quickly "invaded" (their very telling verb, not mine) by gay men. It must have happened pretty rapidly as Crescendo was in existence for only 4-5 years or so.

Notice also that the write-up is clearly not very interested in the lesbian phase, as nothing is said about it other than a brief allusion at the beginning. Nor is there any interest in acknowledging this common power dynamic (i.e. of men taking over women's spaces and making them their own). So there certainly is no discussion on how or why this happens or how it might be addressed. So what we end up with it a lot of nostalgic reminiscences glorifying Crescendo's "male phase" while ignoring why men felt compelled to take it over when they had so many other places in town.

Crescendo  -  166 South Elmwood Avenue (1969-1973)

Originally patronized by lesbians, gay men began to invade the Crescendo after the demise of T&T's Western Paradise on Niagara Street.  The male clientele was primarily a college-age crowd, including many gay men who enjoyed going to straight bars such as Brink's, Cole's, and the Rendezvous.  Some nights the bar would be so crowded that it was almost impossible to walk across the room with your drink.

Jerry Rothlein, the eccentric Chairman of the Fine Arts Department at Buffalo State College, regularly "held court" at the Crescendo.  His quick wit, immense fund of knowledge, and biting tongue made him a bar favorite.  Being skewered by this learned professor became a rite of passage.  He lived on Allen Street across from the Blackstone and was a well-known Buffalo character in both straight and gay social circles.

The Crescendo operated at a time when many well-educated and well-employed gay men regularly patronized the Buffalo gay bars, mixing with other gay people from all social classes.  Although the Crescendo had become a men's bar, many women continued to go there.  One of the most popular songs on the jukebox was "Lay Lady Lay" (1969-Bob Dylan).

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